Network of Practice


Self-maintenance of an expertise-based network

Principal Metaphors

  • Knowledge is … systemic possibilities
  • Knowing is … distributed information
  • Learner is … an information node (individual) and/or a network of information (collective)
  • Learning is … participating
  • Teaching is … mentoring




Network of Practice is an umbrella notion that includes all forms of social networks that support production of knowledge and distribution of information within a group of individuals who have common, practice-related goals. While Networks of Practice could be seen to include both Community of Practice and Virtual Community of Practice discourses, NoPs might also be distinguished by (1) their focus on information exchange, (2) the lack of specific obligations around contributions or promises of reciprocation (i.e., the extent and nature of participation is individually determined), and (3) a diminished emphasis on interpersonal relationships, as might be inferred by the use of “network” rather than “community.” On the last of these points, members of a Network of Practice may never meet, as exchanges and collaborations are typically mediated by electronic means.


On its own, the notion of Network of Practice is not especially controversial. It’s intended more as a catch-all notion than an innovation.

Authors and/or Prominent Influences

John Seely Brown; Paul Duguid

Status as a Theory of Learning

Network of Practice is not a theory of learning. It is, rather, an elaboration of one aspect of Networked Learning.

Status as a Theory of Teaching

While the discourse surrounding Network of Practice is more descriptive than prescriptive, it does offer advice that could be considered pedagogical in nature, especially around communication structures, information access, and strategies to establish and maintain memberships.

Status as a Scientific Theory

Some of the conceptual sources of Network of Practice, such as Situated Learning, meet the requirements of scientific theories. Others, such as Networked Learning, do not. Network of Practice is not associated with a significant body of research.

Map Location

Please cite this article as:
Davis, B., & Francis, K. (2020). “Network of Practice” in Discourses on Learning in Education.

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